Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Limulus polyphemus, the American horseshoe crab, has an endogenous clock that drives circatidal rhythms of locomotor activity. In this study, we examined the ability of artificial tides to entrain the locomotor rhythms of Limulus in the laboratory. In experiments one and two, the activity of 16 individuals of L. polyphemus was monitored with activity boxes and “running wheels.” When the crabs were exposed to artificial tides created by changes in water depth, circatidal rhythms were observed in animals exposed to 12.4-h “tidal” cycles of either water depth changes (8 of 8 animals) or inundation (7 of 8 animals). In experiment three, an additional 8 animals were exposed to water depth changes under cyclic conditions of light and dark and then monitored for 10 days with no imposed artificial tides. Most animals (5) clearly synchronized their activity to the imposed artificial tidal cycles, and 3 of these animals showed clear evidence of entrainment after the artificial tides were terminated. Overall, these results demonstrate that the endogenous tidal clock that influences locomotion in Limulus can be entrained by imposed artificial tides. In the laboratory, these tidal cues override the influence of light/dark cycles. In their natural habitat, where both tidal and photoperiod inputs are typically always present, their activity rhythms are likely to be much more complex.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Biological Sciences

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The Biological Bulletin


University of Chicago Press

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© 2008, The University of Chicago Press